Nav: Home

Perceived weight discrimination linked to physical inactivity

March 07, 2017

People who feel that they have been discriminated against because of their weight are much less likely to be physically active than people who don't perceive that they have suffered any such stigmatisation, according to new research led by UCL.

The research was published in the journal BMJ Open. It was the first study to examine the relationship between weight discrimination and physical activity in a large population sample.

The scientists looked at data from more than 5,400 men and women aged over 50 who were participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

People who felt discriminated against because of their size had almost 60% higher odds of being inactive and 30% lower odds of engaging in moderate or vigorous exercise once a week than their peers.

There could be several reasons for the findings. These include that overweight and obese people who feel stigmatised may be more self-conscious about exercising in front of others for fear they will attract undesirable attention, leading to embarrassment or teasing, said Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health) who led the research.

"People who have experienced weight-related discrimination may lack the confidence to exercise in public. They may also begin to believe the negative stereotypes against themselves as lazy and worthless, leaving them wondering why they should bother trying to be active," said Dr Jackson.

In the study, 4.9% of the participants reported weight discrimination but this varied considerably according to how overweight a person was. Thirteen percent of people with obesity said they had suffered discrimination compared with 0.9% of overweight participants.

The research found a person's body mass index in itself did not affect their levels of exercise, indicating that individuals who experience discrimination are likely to be less physically active, regardless of their weight.

"Given the substantial benefits of being physically active for both physical and mental health, interventions that aim to reduce weight bias at a population level - for example through schools, local communities or national campaigns - may have greater impact on health than those that encourage people to lose weight," said Dr Jackson.

"A Health at Every Size approach may be helpful in encouraging people to develop and maintain healthy habits, including regular physical activity, for the sake of health and wellbeing as opposed to weight control."

The study had limitations, including that physical activity data and weight discrimination were self-reported.
-end-


University College London

Related Physical Activity Articles:

The benefits of physical activity for older adults
New findings published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reveal how physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.
Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression
Increased levels of physical activity can significantly reduce the odds of depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition.
Is physical activity always good for the heart?
Physical activity is thought to be our greatest ally in the fight against cardiovascular disease.
Physical activity in lessons improves students' attainment
Students who take part in physical exercises like star jumps or running on the spot during school lessons do better in tests than peers who stick to sedentary learning, according to a UCL-led study.
Physical activity may attenuate menopause-associated atherogenic changes
Leisure-time physical activity is associated with a healthier blood lipid profile in menopausal women, but it doesn't seem to entirely offset the unfavorable lipid profile changes associated with the menopausal transition.
Are US adults meeting physical activity guidelines?
The proportion of US adults adhering to the 'Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' from the US Department of Health and Human Services didn't significantly improve between 2007 and 2016 but time spent sitting increased.
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds do less vigorous physical activity
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, have lower levels of vigorous physical activity, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge.
Light, physical activity reduces brain aging
Incremental physical activity, even at light intensity, is associated with larger brain volume and healthy brain aging.
Decline in physical activity often starts as early as age 7
Overall physical activity starts to decline already around the age of school entry.
Is it ever too late for adults to benefit from physical activity?
It may never be too late for adults to become physically active and enjoy some health benefits.
More Physical Activity News and Physical Activity Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.